Burn Creative Thinking Right Into Your Brain
Mindy Tyson McHorse here, happy to serve you as guest editor of The Writer’s Life again.
This week, I want to talk to you about creativity. As in, do you really need it? And if so, how do you get it? Can you buy it? Borrow it? Steal it?
The answers may surprise you (they did me).
But first, let’s explore the core question: is it really that important that we be creative as writers? After all, we can get by well enough just by following the proven formulas for quality copywriting and other types of freelance writing.
That’s true … but if you want a high income … quickly … while doing as little work as possible … then the answer is yes – creativity is a MUST.
Sure, you can be an effective writer if you follow templates and churn out by-the-numbers headlines, autoresponders, landing pages, etc. But nobody is going to beat down your door and beg you to write for them.
Creative writers who go beyond what’s expected and present their clients with extraordinary ideas are the ones who surpass “normal” career success.
And they’re the ones who have clients begging for more.
Clearly, it’s in your best interest to constantly hone your creativity. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t matter whether you were “born creative” or not. Creativity can be learned. In fact, it can be burned right into your brain.
Neurologically, the concept is called “use-dependant plasticity.” Most of us know of it as “neural pathways.” In other words, you can create new neural pathways when you exercise your brain beyond its current limits.
It’s the whole “use it or lose it” concept. As we age, we tend to lose our ability to create new neural pathways. Fortunately, we can reverse this process through a little effort.
I first learned this lesson as a sophomore in high school. At a convention for boosting creativity, one of the speakers talked about the importance of trying new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
She said when we do things the same way every day, it has a wearing effect on our brains. Just like taking the same path through a forest, day after day, we wind up laying a definitive trail. In the meantime, the forest trees and plants grow up thick around us so that we have no choice but to stay on the path.
The same is true for our brains. If we repeat the same actions every day, we create deep pathways of regularity. The other untouched areas of our brains become inaccessible through lack of use. Our entrenched neural pathways restrict us to specific, unalterable ways of doing things.
This is bad. It means we get stuck in our ways, unable to think outside the box.
The solution? Force your mind to develop new neural pathways. Doing so sparks your imagination, makes you more versatile, and absolutely enhances creativity – all traits successful writers should have.
Prompting new neural pathways in your brain is easy. Try the following:
- Eat something different for breakfast.
- Take a new route to the grocery store, even if it means going out of your way.
- Try a restaurant in your town you’d normally never go to.
- Order something you’ve never tried from that restaurant menu.
- Buy and wear clothes or jewelry or a hat that people who know you would never expect to see you in.
- Read a book in a genre you’ve never tried.
- Approach a stranger and start a conversation.
- Travel somewhere you never thought you’d go. (So, if camping trips are your habit, go to a resort. If you prefer luxurious cruises, try a vacation where you do volunteer work.)
Or (and this is one of my favorite learning techniques) change up your learning process. For example, when I want to watch a webinar or a presentation to improve my skills, I make an event out of it. In the same way I go all out on movie night with my husband, I’ll pop some popcorn, make a milkshake, and put it on our big-screen television.
Taking yourself out of your office and regular “learning cave” can make it easier to absorb new concepts. (I highly recommend doing this with the Bootcamp Home Study program, which is currently at a closeout discount and available for only $249 until tomorrow.)
Any of these ideas will trigger the development of new neural pathways in your brain. But as you get started, keep two things in mind:
First, remember you’re doing this to improve your skills as a writer and your ability to think quickly when faced with an unfamiliar situation. It’s not all fun and games.
Second, stick with it! You can’t try a new thing just once and expect it to make a fundamental difference in the way you think.
Keep trying new things. Keep challenging yourself. You’ll gradually see a shift in your attitude and an all-around improvement in your ability to react.
I’m going to go and do something wild and different tonight as a kick-off to this new idea. I think I’ll go with hot yoga (talk about stretching past your own limits – that’s yoga at 105 degrees!).
What about you – what will you do to spark your creativity development? Let me know by posting a comment below.
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